Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Apocalypse Now!

Francis Ford Coppola, 1979 (9.8*)
Palm d'Or (Cannes )
Loosely based on the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness, Coppola's most unique film is a visual feast of the Vietnam war, a near dreamlike excursion into the soul using the metaphor of the boat trip deep into the jungle, where civilized men fear to tread.

Perhaps the worst artistic choice is  Martin Sheen's unnecessary narration, which is even grating at times, and a huge Marlon Brando was a puzzlement (Coppola "didn't know what to do with him"). However, several exciting sequences make up for it and are some of the best war footage put on film, notably the dawn helicopter raid on the village at the river's mouth, done to the Wagner "Ride of the Valkyries" music; but my favorite scene is the Do Lung Bridge at night, in one soldier's words "the asshole of the world", a nightmare trip of party lights, explosions, gunfire, and screams. Robert Duvall as a gung-ho air cavalry colonel was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar and should have won.

Watch the longer Redux version if you haven't, it restores some deleted scenes from the theatrical release; I liked it even more, especially a leisurely sequence at a French colonial plantation. This version seems more like a slow boat trip up a river.

Note: Coppola felt he had no ending. He even changed it once after a pre-screening with an audience, before the general release. Currently, the ending of the Redux version is different from the ending of the original theatrical version; I don't think in either case it changes much - this film is about a journey into the darkness of the soul.

Companion Film: the excellent documentary using footage filmed by wife Eleanor Coppola, Hearts of Darkness and her book about the location filming, Notes.

Quote: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning; it smells like.... victory" (Robert Duvall)
Quote2: "Charlie don't surf!" (Robert Duvall)
Quote3: "Run, Charlie!" (Larry Fishburne)
Quote4: "Soldier, who's in charge here?" - "Ain't YOU?"
"Damn, you stepped on my face!"
"I thought you were dead"
"Well, you thought wrong, dammit!"


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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